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Unit information: New Developments in International Relations Theory in 2020/21

Unit name New Developments in International Relations Theory
Unit code POLI20016
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Joseph
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The module develops students’ understanding of IR theory and introduces contemporary developments in theoretical debate. It looks at how some of the main approaches like realism and constructivism have recently developed as well as introducing new ideas like queer theory and New Materialism. It also takes a more philosophical and sociological approach to IR – both in terms of relating the discipline to the wider social sciences and in terms of looking at a wider range of social phenomena. The aim of the module is to challenge traditional understandings of IR. This better reflects the disciplinary practice of IR in the UK and in Bristol in particular.


- Broaden understanding of theories of IR - Introduce the latest IR approaches - Look at these in wider context of social sciences - Challenge traditional understandings of the discipline

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

1) Demonstrate an ability to critically analyse key theories in the study of international relations.

2) Critically evaluate new theoretical approaches to the study of world politics

3) Develop independent arguments by synthesising a wide range of relevant information and evidence

4) Engage critically with key themes raised by the unit

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Details

1,500 word essay (25%)

2,500 word essay (75%)

Both essays test all learning outcomes

Reading and References

Acuto, Michele. & Curtis, Simon (2013), Reassembling International Theory: Assemblage Thinking and International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Connolly, William E. (2013). "The 'New Materialism' and the Fragility of Things". Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 41 (3): 399–412.

Dunne, Tim, Kurki, Milja and Smith Steve (2016) International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, Oxford University Press.

Joseph, Jonathan and Wight, Colin (2010) Scientific Realism and International Relations, Basingstoke: Palgrave